Temperance Movement (West's Encyclopedia of American Law)
The TEMPERANCE MOVEMENT in the United States first became a national crusade in the early nineteenth century. An initial source of the movement was a groundswell of popular religion that focused on abstention from alcohol. Evangelical preachers of various Christian denominations denounced drinking alcohol as a sin. People who drank, they claimed, lost their faith in God and ceased to observe the teachings of Jesus.
Other supporters of the first temperance movement objected to alcohol's destructive effects on individuals, communities, and the nation as a whole. According to these activists, the consumption of alcohol was responsible for many personal and societal problems, including unemployment, absenteeism in the workplace, and physical violence. Scores of short stories and books published in the mid-nineteenth century described in dramatic detail the abuse suffered by the families of alcoholics. Alcoholics were characterized as dangerous to themselves, their families, and even their nation's security. In the words of temperance advocate Lyman Beecher, a drunk electorate would "dig the grave of our liberties and entomb our glory."
The temperance movement was marked by an undercurrent of ethnic and religious hostility. Some of the first advocates were people of Anglo-Saxon heritage who associated alcohol with the growing number of Catholic immigrants from Ireland and the...
(The entire section is 954 words.)
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Temperance Movement (Encyclopedia of Drugs, Alcohol, and Addictive Behavior)
Many temperance movements and societies emerged in the United States during the nineteenth century. These movements began in the early 1800s and gained ascendancy during the mid-to-late 1800s, culminating in the Prohibition Movement, the Prohibition Amendment (Article 18) to the U.S. Constitution in 1919, and the start of Prohibition in 1920. Gusfield (1986), an eminent scholar of the temperance movement, has argued that the term temperance is not appropriate, because the broad reformist ideology of the movement focused mainly on abstinenceot moderationn the intake of alcoholic beverages. Blocker (1989) observed that the many temperance movements that emerged in the United States represented men and women from varying ethnic, religious, social, economic, and political groups who selected out temperance as the solution to what they perceived as problems in their own lives and in those of others. By the end of the nineteenth century, the temperance movement had evolved through several phases, and the strategies used by the proponents changed from persuasive efforts to moderate the intake of alcoholic beverages to more coercive strategies, even laws, to bring about the control of all drinking.
EARLY PHASE: 1800-1840
In colonial America and during the early 1800s, alcoholic beverages (brewed, fermented, and distilled) were a staple of the American diet, were often homemade, and were viewed as "the good creature of God." Among the colonists, the drinking of alcoholic beverages was integrated with social norms; all social groups and ages drank alcoholic beverages, and the consumption rate was very high. Alcohol was also traded, sold, and given to Native Americans, who had no long history of daily drinking, with almost immediate negative consequences for these peoples.
By 1840, a revolution in American social attitudes had occurred, in which alcohol came to be seen as "the root of all evil" and the cause of the major problems of the early republic, such as the crime, poverty, immorality, and insanity of the Jacksonian era (Tyrell, 1979). Temperance was advocated as the ideal solution for these problems by such people as Anthony Benezet, a popular Quaker reformer; Thomas Jefferson; and Dr. Benjamin Rush, the surgeon general of the Continental Army and a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Temperance-reform organizations, such as the American Temperance Society, emerged, committed to the eradication of these social problems.
The American Temperance Society (ATS), founded in Boston in 1826 as the American Society for the Promotion of Temperance, was the first national (as opposed to local) temperance organization. It had its roots in the processes of industrialization and the commercialization of agriculture. The people who developed the movement were committed to hastening the processes of economic and social change. These processes involved the educating of Americans to value sobriety and industry, in order to create the conditions for the development of an industrial-commercial society. The movement was supported by entrepreneurs who needed a disciplined and sober work force to help create the economic change necessary for the material improvement of the young republic.
During the so-called Great Awakening the evangelical clergy as well as that of other U.S. Protestant groups supported temperance as a means of promoting the morality needed for building a "Christian nation," through social and economic progress. According to Gusfield, these groups helped to place the issue of drinking on the public and political agenda, providing their personnel as authorities on the cognitive aspects of drinking and becoming the legitimate source of public policies on drinking. Also, in the early 1820s and 1830s, small-scale farmers and rural groups were active in promoting the temperance movement; they saw temperance as a way to promote social progress in a time of transition from a rural to an urban-industrial order, from small-scale farming to entrepreneurial forms of agriculture.
By 1836, the American Temperance Society had become an abstinence society, and ideas about problems associated with alcohol had begun to changenebriety or habitual drunkenness was being called a disease. The ideology of the movement placed the source of alcohol addiction in the substance itselflcohol was inherently addicting finding supported by research conducted by Rush, who in 1785 wrote Inquiry into the Effects of Ardent Spirits upon the Human Body and Mind (approximately 200,000 copies were published between 1800 and 1840). Blocker (1989) observed that the general focus of the American Temperance Society was on persuading the already temperate to become abstinent, rather than persuading drunkards to reform their drinking behavior. According to Gusfield (1986), abstinence became a symbol that enabled society to distinguish the industrious, steady American worker from other peoplehich resulted in the movement becoming democratized instead of associated only with the New England upper classes. Attempts to reform and save drunkards was the focus of another temperance movement, the Washingtonians.
MIDDLE PHASE: 1840-1860Where well-to-do groups and Protestant evangelical clergy dominated the early phase of temperance reform, the middle phase included the efforts of artisans and women of the lower and lower-middle classes, who promoted self-help groups among largely working-class drunkards trying to give up drinking (Tyrell, 1979). These artisans organized into the Washingtonian societies (named for George Washington), dedicated to helping
In 1840, the (first) Washingtonian Temperance Society was established in Baltimore. Members took a pledge against the use of all alcoholic beverages and attempted to convert drunkards to the pledge of teetotalism (c. 1834, derived from total + total = abstinence). By the end of 1841, Washingtonian societies were active in Baltimore, Boston, New York, and other areas throughout the North. These groups were not socially homogeneous. Tyrell (1979) observed that the relationships between the old organizations and the new societies culminated in various struggles for control over the Washingtonian societies, with fragmentation of these groups occurring.
Washingtonian members who wanted respect from the middle-class temperance reformers, including the evangelical reformers, elected to remain with the mainstream temperance movement. The wage earners and reformed drunkards remained in their own societies, and they opposed early efforts at legal coercionor example, the passage of the Maine Law of 1851. Gusfield (1986) has interpreted support for this law as a reaction against the drinking practices of the Irish and German immigrants to the United States between 1845 and 1855. He argued that temperance reform in this period represented a "symbolic crusade" to impose existing cultural values on immigrant groups. Tyrell interpreted the Maine Law as a way for middle-class reformers to control and reform the laboring poor. From 1851 on, many local laws were passed that attempted to limit the consumption of alcohol; however, throughout the remainder of the century, these statutes were repealed, liberalized, or unenforced.
LATE PHASE: 1860-1920
The Civil War, World War I, and the rapid demographic changes that accompanied immigration during this period contributed to the support of abstinence during the last phase of the temperance movements. Urban areas were expanding, factory towns were a reality, and there was an increase in the socializing at the end of the workday as well as at the end of the workweek; consequently there was an increase in the production and consumption of alcoholic beverages. Several temperance societies that emerged during this period included the active participation of women and childrenince wives and children were often neglected or abused by drunken husbands and fathers. Irish-American Catholics formed the Catholic Total Abstention Union in 1872; the WOMEN 'S CHRISTIAN TEMPERANCE UNION (WCTU) was formed in 1874; and the Anti-Saloon League (ASL) emerged in 1896. These societies were able to mobilize tremendous support for abstinence, rather than mere moderation in the intake of alcoholic beverages. At this time, the ideology of the temperance movements centered upon the evil effects of all alcohol, espousing the view that alcohol had become the central problem in American life and that abstinence was the only solution for this problem.
The WCTU was founded in Cleveland in 1874 and emerged as the first mainstream organization in which women and children were systematically involved in the temperance movement. Annie Wittenmeyer, Frances Willard, and Carrie Nation provided this temperance-reform movement with creative and dynamic leadership. The WCTU crusade to shut down saloons and promote moralityook a radical stance, criticizing American institutions by aligning itself with the feminist movement, the Populist party, and Christian Socialism. Gusfield (1986) argues that, although, under the leadership of Frances Willard (1879-1898), the WCTU was unsuccessful in establishing these alliances, it did achieve the following: It united the Populist and more conservative wings of the movement and it united the political forces of "conservatism, progressivism, and radicalism in the same movement." In addition, the WCTU provided backing for Prohibitionist candidates, including workers for their campaigns as well as audiences to listen to their positions on alcohol use. The WCTU still exists, based in Evanston, Illinois, and lists about 100,000 members as of 1990.
By the late 1800s, coercive reform became the dominant theme of the temperance movement. In 1893, the ASL of Ohio was organized by Howard H. Russell, a Congregational minister and temperance activist. In 1895, this group combined with a similar group in the District of Columbia, establishing a national society in 1896. By the end of the 1800s, the ASL, which represented a skillful political leadership resource for the Prohibition movement, mobilized tremendous support for abstinence instead of just temperance. In 1896, the movement began to separate itself from a number of economic and social reforms, concentrating on the struggle of traditional rural Protestant society against developing urban systems and industrialization.
Part of the success of the ASL was its determination to remain a single-issue (prohibition) pressure group that cut across all political party lines; the ASL also maintained a strong relationship with the Protestant clergy. It always put its own issue first but worked peacefully with the major political parties and especially with legislators (Blocker, 1989). By 1912, local prohibition laws had been passed to render most of the South legally dry.
In 1917, a major event boosted the cause of national prohibition. The United States entered into World War I, which prompted the ASL to push for the suspension of the industrial distilling of alcohol (ethanol). Very shortly after the U.S. entry into the war, the selling of liquor near military bases and to servicemen in uniform was prohibited (Blocker, 1989). By 1918, the Eighteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution had been proposed and the ASL had pushed prohibition through 33 state legislatures. Consequently, the Volstead Actalled Prohibitionas ratified on January 16, 1919. It went into effect one year later, on January 16, 1920, prohibiting the manufacture, sale, or transportation of alcoholic beverages.
Where the temperance movement was a middle-class reform movement, because it articulated the theme of self-control that was central to the middle-class ideology of the nineteenth century, some members of the working class also supported reform (Blocker, 1989). An ideology of ABSTINENCE became a rallying point for middle-class people who saw the rich as greedy, the working class as increasingly restless, and the poor as uneducated immigrants. Thus, they felt the need to restore a coherent moral order, especially after the upheaval of the Civil War and the ensuing period of industrial greed. At this time, the United States was undergoing economic expansion and deepening division along class lines. Other reform groups, such as the Progressive political party, joined the prohibitionists in their commitment to rid cities of saloons so that the United States could move toward becoming a virtuous and moral republic. At the end of the nineteenth century, Americans seemed to be more receptive to moral than scientific arguments for temperance reform and abstinence from alcohol.
Members of the temperance movements were concerned not only with changing the behavior of other social classes and groups but also about changing themselves (Levine, 1978). They were concerned that the pernicious effects of alcohol were also destroying the lives of Protestant middle-class people. While some of these reform groups were not complete supporters of an abstinence ideology, they were concerned with rebuilding a national community and promoting the common welfare. Abstinence became the governing ideology of the many diverse groups that had mobilized to promote a new social order.
As more scholars turn their attention to the study of the temperance era and the various temperance movements and societies, additional knowledge and interpretations will continue to be published. The bibliography that follows provides examples of some new interpretations of this period.
(SEE ALSO: Alcohol; Prohibition: Pro and Con; Treatment)
BLOCKER, J. S., JR. (1989). American temperance movements: Cycles of reform. Boston: Twayne Publishers.
BLUMBERG, L. U., WITH PITTMAN, W. L. (1991). Beware the first drink! The Washingtonian temperance movement and Alcoholics Anonymous. Seattle, WA: Glenn Abbey Books.
BORDIN, R. (1981). Women and temperance: The quest for power and liberty, 1873-1900. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
CLARK, N. (1976). Deliver us from evil. New York: Norton. Dictionary of American temperance biography. (1984). Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.
EPSTEIN, B. (1981). The politics of domesticity: Women, evangelism and temperance in nineteenth-century America. Middletown, CT. Wesleyan University Press.
GUSFIELD, J. R. (1986). Symbolic crusade: Status politics and the American temperance movement, 2nd ed. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press.
HOFSTADER, R. (1955). The age of reform. New York: Vintage.
LENDER, M., & HOUSTON, J. K. (1982). Drinking in America: A history. New York: Free Press.
LEVINE, H. (1978). The discovery of addiction: Changing conceptions of habitual drunkenness in America. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 39, 143-174.
RORABAUGH, W. (1979). The alcoholic republic: An American tradition. New York: Oxford University Press.
TYRELL, I. R. (1979). Sobering up: From temperance to prohibition in antebellum America, 1800-1860. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.
PHYLLIS A. LANGTON